My take on the decision to go to the country

My thoughts so far:

1. The timing is reasonably good before Brexit negotiations start in earnest. We are likely to lose a few weeks, and Article 50 day would have been a better choice on this count.

2. The PM is going on about the strength of her position, and how important this is in negotiations. There’s a certain amount of bluster here. A successful election reinforces her position in the House of Commons – it does nothing to induce EU governments to give us what we want.

3. The Tories are complaining about opposition existing and opposing. This must mean the SNP and the Lib Dems, because Labour are doing none of it. Perhaps she has been inspired by the abolition of parliamentary democracy in Turkey. She says there is unity in the country in favour of her Brexit agenda (which there clearly isn’t) and therefore there ought to be unity in the House. But the majority she already has in the house of commons gives a PM powers under our constitution beyond what you would expect under any modern constitution with checks and balances. If we take it seriously, this argument should terrify us.

4. May complains about the House of Lords not having a Tory majority. This is a peculiar reason to call an election for the Commons and not for the Lords.

5. Battlebus expenses, anyone? A couple of dozen Tory seats were at risk of legal challenge due to failure to declare battlebus related expenses and that would have wiped out the government majority. This can now be quietly forgotten.

6. The point of the Fixed Term Parliament Act is to take this decision out of the PM’s hands. Labour is entitled, if it wishes, to demand a slower timetable if the PM appears to choose a date for party advantage. However they would be unwise to do so on this occasion because of the Brexit timetable.

7. It is going to be tough for anybody to eat into the Tories’ advantage in the polls. Lib Dems stand a good chance of winning back many seats lost in 2015, and a few not held in 2010, but Labour are likely to lose more. We can send a message against Brexit/Hard Brexit by voting Lib Dem and a strong liberal performance in Tory heartlands may give May pause for thought on hard Brexit even if she wins a larger majority.

8. The SNP fear message that won the critical mass of soft Lib Dem and Labour voters over to the Tories in England in 2015 will be used again, and will still be effective. And there’s a Corbyn fear message too. Lib Dems should move swiftly to rule out supporting any SNP/Corbyn type government while backing co-operation with moderate Tory and Labour remainers where they can be peeled off. It will be hard to say this loudly enough for it to get through but we must try.

9. I didn’t think this would happen. Labour won’t get its act together until they lose at least two General Elections and the Tories had no need to make this happen any sooner. This is likely to be the end of Corbyn, but the Labour Party membership has still been taken over by socialists and a hammering in June is not going to fix that.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Vote SNP get Labour only works if Corbyn looks creditable and at the moment he doesn’t.

  • Andrew McCaig 18th Apr '17 - 4:08pm

    ah, did not see the new thread, so I”ll post this again…

    If Corbyn had even the slightest bit of political nous he and Labour would abstain (and us of course) on the vote tomorrow. Then the motuon would not get the required 2/3 of the House of Commons and St Theresa would appear weak and incompetent. She would then have to repeal the FTPA (which would look like gerrymandering) or engineer a vote of no confidence in herself (which would look plain daft).
    That would be the best way of stopping hard Brexit

  • Andrew McCaig 18th Apr '17 - 4:17pm

    re Gorton: It looks like chaos to me.
    1) The FTPA was amended in 2013 to make the dissolution 25 days before the polling date This is 3rd May
    2) A by-election should actually be cancelled if dissolution occurs before the polling date, under electoral law (the last time was in 1924 when postal votes I suspect did not exist!. Liverpool Edge Hill occurred the day after a vote of no confidence but before the dissolution date, and David Alton had to win twice in a month)
    3) BUT, until dissolution, nothing legal has happened so presumably Gorton cannot be called off and the postal votes still have to go out
    4) so we have the potentially absolutely ridiculous situation of an election being called off the day before polling day, with several thousand votes having already been cast

    This is what happens when you put incompetent people like Theresa May in charge of the Ship of State….

  • paul barker 18th Apr '17 - 4:34pm

    We just have to pray that May will not get her 2/3rds tomorrow or thats it for The UK. We are not yet strong enough to stop The Tories (though we have to try) & Labour are dying too slowly. By 2022 Scotland will have left & the Economy will have been wrecked.
    Sorry if I sound a bit gloomy about this.

  • ethicsgradient 18th Apr '17 - 5:13pm

    I agree very much with the point you make Joe. I would just add 2 more.

    1. The accusation that May is a “PM without a mandate or and un-elected PM” (even though we do not elect PM’s directly) will be put to bed, providing she wins.

    2. This is by proxy the 2nd brexit referendum that the Lib Dem wish for. If there is a huge surge in Lib Dem support (not necessarily winning the election and forming a liberal government) then it would be clear that there is not a mandate for full brexit. Converserly if May wins a thumping majority, then it has to be accepted that voters do ant a full, clean, hard brexit.

    [the caveat that being a general election is on a multitude of issues and not just brexit. That though is precisely the argument for holding a referendum on a single issue and we have had one of those recently]

  • ‘Brexit/Hard Brexit’
    Which is it?

  • Keith Browning 18th Apr '17 - 5:40pm

    48% + don’t want to leave at all – and the number is growing. They don’t want hard or Soft Brexit – they want to REMAIN. That should be the Lib Dem target group. No pussy footing around the edges – stand up and be counted..!!

  • Do we remember January 1974. The first election that year started out on one issue, ie Who governs the country, the government or the Miners? Initially surge for the Conservative government, a one issue election. Then in a short period of time domestic issues came into the scene, compromises were being considered, the Liberal vote took off again, Labour got more confident and in the end ended up with more seats albeit on less votes than the government. This one may be all Brexit now but see where we are in 5 weeks.

  • ethicsgradient 18th Apr '17 - 6:19pm


    I was being polite and using Lib Dem language. For me I voted for and wanted a full exit of the UK from the EU. I wanted to remove the political oversight, the Judaical oversight and return to a simple free-trade relationship. With that I want us to trade freely around the world so that would necessitate leaving the customs union and ideally move to equivalence.

    there is no soft/hard/clean brexit, this is just playing with words since the referendum vote on June 23rd last year. We all knew that leaving the EU meant leaving being membership of the single market.

    @ Keith Browning: Well your supposition will be put to the test in the coming general election. If there really are a 48%+ out there wanting to remain we should see a huge Lib Dem surge in the election. let us see in 6 weeks…

  • We should be straight with the British public and tell them we can’t win the General election but that we can replace Labour as the opposition party. If we build enough momentum I think it’s do able.

  • ethicsgradient – a mandate comes from votes and seats and a manifesto. The Leave manifesto – 350 million etc wasnt actually May’s, neither was Cameron’s. But she will have a different set of problems if she wins – unless her manifesto is vague and noncommital.

  • Do we know which lobby, if any, our MPs will vote in tomorrow?

  • ethicsgradient 18th Apr '17 - 7:22pm

    indeed. if the mood music I am listening to on the news tonight is right; then certainly a significant issue in the coming general election will be Brexit/shape of a brexit deal. If May wins a big majority, then we had to conclude/accept that the general public endorse and are happy to go with the brexit with May is proposing: Leave ECJ, leave Customs union, leave single market, negotiate UK-EU free trade agreement. There would be a mandate for such a ‘style’ of brexit.

    If (as I state above) there is a big, big swell of support for the Lib Dems who ar clearly representing the remain-voters position then a different view of Brexit might be being pushed forward.

    Domestic and defense issues will surely come into play over the next 6 weeks too.

  • Graham Evans 18th Apr '17 - 7:32pm

    One of the German financial institutions has suggested that a big win for May would actually allow her to ignore the hard Brexiteers, quickly agree the financial divorce settlement, and have a long transition period without having to worry about facing a GE soon after leaving the EU. Seems quite rational, but is May that rational?

  • Chris Bertram 18th Apr '17 - 7:34pm

    @ethicsgradient: “… the Judaical oversight… ”
    Blimey, I didn’t realise we were being ruled by the Israeli supreme court 😉
    “Domestic and defense issues will surely come into play over the next 6 weeks too.”
    Well, if defence comes to the fore, then that’s Jezza well and truly stuffed. He doesn’t really believe in defence.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Apr '17 - 7:41pm

    I reckon Joe’s point 10 is probably right. Theresa May’s government is just stumped for answers, and hoping that some will emerge to save them. We must make sure the awful truths about the effects of Brexit are hammered home, so that their generally false and fantastic positions crumble. May is running scared of the Lib Dems, hoping to crush us before we attain our full strength, but her government is vulnerable.

  • IMO, it’s designed to distract from the shaky Brexit negotiations. We’re approaching the time when people are starting to ask questions about the details and what it all actually means, and people who did vote Brexit are slowly realising that it’s all a lot harder than they assumed it would be. By calling for an election now, the Tories avoid that scrutiny.

    I find the whole thing hugely opportunistic from the Tories, and at a political level I can’t blame them, but they are not putting the country first. However, if it puts an end to people banging on about Theresa May being an unelected PM, then it will bring some small relief. And surely it will be the end for Corbyn, and while the inevitable leadership election will be horrendous, if it means an end to Corbynistas complaining that the polls are a Tory conspiracy, that would provide some further relief.

  • ethicsgradient 18th Apr '17 - 7:44pm

    @Chris Bertram “thumps up” 😉 … good call.

    Yes, I agree. It is not even the first day but when defense and Corbyns historical support for the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah becomes issues of the day on the various days over the next 6 weeks he will be crucified (extra biblical ref…).

    We all know, even though it not always talked about, the first role of a government is the defense of it citizens, the 2nd is then the economy. Usually defense is not an issue (expect for how much one party or other will spend on it), but Corbyn is a different matter. He is clearly a pacifist, would hesitate to shoot armed-wielding terrorists and people just do not trust him to protect the country. Then defense is a serious problem for Labour .

  • paul barker 18th Apr '17 - 7:47pm

    The decision by The CPS to go ahead with prosecutions against “30 Individuals” ( ie 30 Tory MPs/Agents/Staff) changes everything.
    Our MPs should vote No to the Election, its simply an attempt by suspects to escape Trial.

  • @ Pauk Barker

    Do you have a source for that? All I can find reported is that the CPS is considering charges and will make an announcement before 8th June.

    Far from burying the issue I feel it could be explosive for the Tories if prosecutions are announced involving sitting MPs or their constituency staff in marginal seats just a few days before the GE.

  • Mick Taylor 18th Apr '17 - 9:39pm

    We have FPTP elections. We don’t need 48% to vote Lib Dem to win. 35% should do it. The problem is that below 30% we only win by targeting. From 30% and above the seats start to flow in slowly until at around 35% they flood in.
    Of course, it’s a long shot. Of course it will likely not happen. It is possible however if remain voters stick together and back the Lib Dems. The Brexit voters have many choices, so they will be split. Without proportional representation this is one election where FPTP could work in our favour.
    We need to go all out to persuade pro remain voters to back us. It’s the only way to stop Brexit.

  • “Lib Dems stand a good chance of winning back many seats lost in 2015, and a few not held in 2010, but Labour are likely to lose more. We can send a message against Brexit/Hard Brexit by voting Lib Dem and a strong liberal performance in Tory heartlands may give May pause for thought on hard Brexit even if she wins a larger majority.”

    I do not foresee May changing her position, this will only give her greater confidence in pushing through a hard brexit.

    “The SNP fear message that won the critical mass of soft Lib Dem and Labour voters over to the Tories in England in 2015 will be used again”

    The SNP fear message was a disgraceful campaigning tactic which (ironically) undermined any idea of a United kingdom in much the same way as Cameron’s Offa’s Dyke comments. I do not see this as a possible campaign tactic for a party in support of the UK or any party willing to put people ahead of the pursuit of power.

    “This is likely to be the end of Corbyn, but the Labour Party membership has still been taken over by socialists and a hammering in June is not going to fix that.”

    Being second biggest party to a hard Tory majority is no great success.

  • @Joe:
    11) To avoid Parliamentary scrutiny!
    12) To coerce Parliament to fall into line; this motion is effectively a confidence vote.
    With a larger majority, May can keep more details out of the public domain and use Conservative party internal communications channels and whips to get the results she will need Parliament to give her.

    So what this means, and hence the reason for May’s ‘tantrum’ over Parliament, is that Parliament is (believe it or not given how ineffective the opposition have been in challenging the government) actually doing it’s job!

    So if LibDems, Labour and others actually believe in Parliamentary sovereignty then they will oppose this motion; because if May loses, she cannot say she represents Parliament and thus the country in any negotiations…

  • Mick, I’m afraid you are mistaken. We may not need 48% to win a general election but we need 40%, because initially most of our votes will be gained from the party in third (or second) place. Only then do we start to take significant numbers of votes from the party with the largest vote in a constituency, and very often they start with well over 40%.

  • Mick Taylor 19th Apr '17 - 1:20am

    I have done the maths. I also used an election prediction site and I can assure you that on 36% we would have a majority of MPs. It’s to do with our crazy FPTP system that works against 3rd parties until suddenly seats fall their way. It’s also to do with the collapse of the Labour vote. Once they fall below 20% they suddenly start losing seats big time and if we are rising they lose them to us, not the Tories. It does to a degree depend on the split in the Brexit vote. But assume the following figures: LD 36, Tory 32, Lab 18, UKIP 10 others 4. We would definitely win although the combined Brexit vote would be a minimum of 42%.

  • Mark Goodrich 19th Apr '17 - 4:20am

    David and Mick – it is all pretty academic! This is election is actually all about electing a decent opposition to hold the Tory government to account.

  • David Evans 19th Apr '17 - 7:12am

    Mick, the key question is what Maths did you do and what assumptions did you make about which constituencies would we progress the most in and which parties would lose votes to us in those constituencies. How did you then test that model against real election results to determine its validity?

    At the last election our vote collapsed and everyone else gained. The only way we have of getting 35% is if UKIP and Labour’s vote share totally collapses. But if that happens the Cons will gain lots of votes as well (in England and Wales), so you could easily see us on 35% and the Cons on 45%+ in lots of places.

    Remember in 2014 Ryan Coetzee had a model showing our MPs it was best to stick with Nick. Sadly people believed it, and we paid a massive price a year later. There are lots of models out there, the question is are they accurate?

  • Jenny Barnes 19th Apr '17 - 11:29am

    it’s 10, I think. We won’t be out of the eu by 2020, we’ll probably have a transitional arrangement which may last another 5-10 years which would be just like being in the EU, subject to ECJ, paying subs, but no say. The economy will likely slide in the next 3 years, so an election in 2020 looks really bad news for the incumbents who failed on Brexit, failed on the economy, failed on the NHS, failed on education, you name it.

  • simon hebditch 19th Apr '17 - 3:45pm

    I am a supporter of tactical voting and a progressive alliance which is trying to identify the most vulnerable Tory seats in the event of cross party activity. Compass, the campaigning organisations, has a list of 100 such marginal seats. We will need to talk with other parties about this possibility. We should remember that even with a fair wind, we will not be able to get more than a total of 30 seats and, to be frank, we don’t want to see Labour decline further as we then couldn’t form a parliamentary alliance which would command a majority.

  • Was Theresa May in such a panic that should couldn’t even wait 17 days until the county council elections are out of the way?

  • Simon Banks 20th Apr '17 - 5:38pm

    The problem for Labour is not leftwing policies (Joe Public couldn’t actually quote any) but a leader who looks shambolic and un-prime-ministerial. It is possible they could fix that – rather unlikely, but possible.

    I agree with Simon Hebditch about alliances but in my view we COULD win up to 40 seats. Still not enough to stop the Tories.

    As for Theresa May saying an election is needed to strengthen her position – isn’t she rather assuming what the result will be? Extremely unlikely though it is, wouldn’t it be hilarious if she ended up with a majority of three?

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